It’s funny how a town you’ve never been to can grow on you within a few days. Five, in fact.
Last Tuesday, I was startled to read that a hospital in North Adams, Mass., was abruptly closing in just three days.
Starting on Wednesday, I began to meet the hundreds of people who didn’t know what their future would look like. They told me their town of 13 and half thousand people would not survive without North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH). I met the daughter who moved within walking distance of the facility to ensure her mother, her children, and she would have immediate access to health care. And I joked with the Mayor who showed shock in his eyes but fearlessness in his words as he promised to do whatever he could to bring the hospital back.
And I kept at it for the next four (work)days.
Each day came with its own burdens, hurdles and stress. Daily, sometime in the mid-afternoon, there would be a late-breaking development. For a reporter who’s off the clock at 6 p.m., any news at 3 or 4 o’clock when it takes over an hour to travel is not welcome news. This led to late hours, extreme hustling to meet deadlines, and getting the necessary news out.
As exhausting as it was to make the drive daily (the trip from Albany to North Adams was at least an hour and 10 minutes), I came to welcome these views as I crossed the Taconic Mountains from the Empire State to the Bay one.
It meant, that after all the winding, the bumps, the steep precipices, the curves beyond which I couldn’t see… there would be a city that I could try to help through my work.
It meant that I would soon start recognizing certain landmarks and towns.
It meant that I could give one of the recently unemployed leaders of the Massachusetts Nursing Union a hug.
It meant that I could stop by City Hall and get a heart-to-heart from Mayor Alcombright.
It meant that I would head down Main Street to pick up a muffin from Luma’s Muffin and Mug.
In less than five days, I found another home to love.
This is what I love about the news business.
For some of the coverage I provided, check out these links:
*I don’t know if Massachussettsian is actually a word. I found it somewhere on the Interwebs and liked it.
Sometimes I like to call myself a foodie. Then there are times when I spend time with real foodies and I resign myself to being just a good eater. Nonetheless, thanks to some lovely Capital Region bloggers (Saratoga Food Fanatic and Chopsticks Optional), I was invited to check out a Vietnamese food tasting at Good Morning Cafe in Ballston Spa, an American brunch place.
Yes. Vietnamese pho at an American brunch place. You can say that out loud.
Here’s how the two incongruous meals come together:
You can peruse their Indiegogo campaign site, which has much more information than I will post here, but a quick recap: Good Morning Cafe owner Nancy Holzman and (hopefully) future Good Night Noodle operator Linh Sullins are coming together to transform Good Morning Cafe into a Vietnamese noodle bar. It will be open in the same space for three nights a week. Voila! Good Night Noodle.
With each bowl of pho sold, they will donate the funds to purchase a bag of rice for a family of 4 in Cambodia. You eat. They eat.
(If you don’t know what pho is, you REALLY need to push this campaign forward because you’re missing out. Or just click this useful link)
It’s an incredibly altruistic business model, and Holzman calls it “Direct Impact Giving,” or DIG. However, to get this new business off the ground, they are looking for YOUR help. There will hopefully be more on this on Time Warner Cable News in Albany next week, but until then, go BACK to their site. Wait, finish reading this first.
Back to the tasting!
These noodles, homemade chicken sausage, intensely rich broth (with low sodium!)…
and premium fish sauce you add in yourself…
all make this endeavor worth supporting.
Not to mention, it led to some great puns in the Twitterverse.
So support Good Night Noodle, especially on Wednesday evenings! What does that mean? Stay tuned.
Trust me, once you taste that broth, you won’t pho-get it.
The interview by Christen Cooper of Bode Miller. Need I say more?
It’s likely you’ve already formed an opinion, and that opinion is one of outrage. How could someone push a grieving man? Personally, I’d love to hear from you, feel free to write your thoughts in the comment section!
However, since this is my blog, i suppose it’s time for me to pen a few thoughts. Also, disclaimer: I realize this is outdated. shhhh. I fell behind in my thought-penning.
So, being a reporter, I understand the pressure to land the “best” interview. Consider just how many people have watched the clip – and while they’ve expressed anger – they’re still tuning to NBC. Tears hit the top of the list when it comes to “good TV.”
Here’s a confession. This week, I asked a woman if I could interview her. She refused because “that other reporter already interviewed me and made me cry.” I learned that it was because a journalist from another news station touched on a sensitive and painful subject.
My thought was, “I want to talk to this woman.”
I realize that makes me sound calloused. However, that incident was almost three years ago, and the motive for wanting to speak to her was because I knew she had the ability to speak freely and comfortably.
Yet, she refused. And I walked away. I didn’t persist.
Back to Miller. I would have asked the first question Cooper asked.
I would have also asked the second question.
Whether or not I would’ve gotten to the third, I’m unsure. I feel I would’ve given Miller a reprieve. However, I understood why she kept up the questioning. You want to know who it is that’s in front of you.
What angers me most about this interview is that we continue to see Miller. How many cameras were there? How many lenses captured the man, knees buckled, sobbing? For several seconds, his grief fills the screen.
A woman asked a question that may have gone too far. And words can’t be taken back in the face of raw emotion. But don’t keep highlighting the hurt. Give the grieving their dignity.
Today I consumed more dairy than my stomach will be able to handle come tomorrow. Until then, here I am.
That’s right. Hello!
Yes, I’m just as surprised as you are that the itch to write has returned. I’ve always loved writing, but as it turns out, my insecurity prevents me from doing it. That and a busy social calendar that I inevitably schedule and regret.
Last year an event gave me a first-ever experience in my journalistic career: A crash that killed two young teenagers and deeply wounded two others. A crash that ended first love. A crash that sent a father to jail. A crash that began wrapping up the grieving in a bandage of community solidarity. A crash in which Dennis Drue was sentenced to 5-15 years in prison on Thursday.
You may not have known I was covering it because I didn’t appear on television it. Twitter gave me away.
There are so many thoughts that could be scrawled on this screen right now. They range from:
1. The moments that made me bite my lip to keep the tears at bay. I was unsuccessful.
3. The justice system
Maybe I’ll get to those. Maybe I won’t. This post is for hope.
4. Social media positivity
Thanks to my news director, I know I tweeted at least 70 times throughout the day. My handy smartphone notified me of every time someone RTed or favorited my 140 characters.
My tweet with the widest online ‘footprint’?
There is so much pain in this story. I am unable to fathom what it is like to lose a child, sister, brother, significant other or friend. There are many still grieving and trying to pick up the pieces of the lives that once were. Others are leaving them behind, understanding the future will have to look nothing like what they hoped for.
Yet enough people found these words describing a beautiful girl and her beautiful heart worth noting.
Is there anger behind those words? Possibly.
Is there full healing in the heart that loved her? Not yet.
But in <140 characters a young man articulated what was so worth loving about Deanna Rivers, and tweeters knew they had to respond. Whether they knew her or not, this is what’s worth remembering.
Rays of sun will break through the darkness.
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:3
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
“If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” – Matthew 18:12-13
I start with a quick apology. I planned for this next post to be about the inundation of difficult news stories when working at a 24-hour statewide cable network (wow, I made that sound really boring), but a little blue bird network got in the way ^_^
For good reason.
I thank Twitter tonight for lifting so many hearts that were downcast by many incidents of tragedy. In addition to the fatal Northway crash, a Mechanicville Marine was killed in combat in Afghanistan this weekend. I actually learned of his death last night, after spending a whole day fighting to address the deaths of Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers in a respectful and honorable fashion. I couldn’t write about it though because it wasn’t confirmed. Anyway, all this… left me with little to keep going.
Then: tonight happened.
You’ve likely seen updates as to what has happened, but here’s the brief story:
Matt Hardy is a football player at Shenendehowa High School. His girlfriend Deanna Rivers was one of the two killed in a crash involving alcohol Saturday night. Hardy is recovering from his serious injuries. As a way of giving him joy, his friends began a campaign to get #TebowCallMatt to trend nationwide on Twitter… and then, of course, have Mr. Tim Tebow call the teenager.
With thousands in support, the topic was seen on the far left menu column within minutes.
Soon after, the New York Jets’ QB dialed.
There are so many lessons to be taken away from this story.
1. Tim Tebow is a good man.
2. The friends and family and anyone who tweeted #TebowCallMatt (and the sequential #MissyCallBailey and #DaleyCallBailey) are wonderful people.
3. That means there are a TON of amazing people out there.
4. Twitter is powerful :)
5. There is always hope.
6. _______________________ (your takeaway)
And the list goes on.
We fight very hard to understand the incomprehensible in life, and sometimes it is futile. In those times, may we keep seeking messages and displays of hope.
Just like these tweeters did.
This post may seem extremely obvious. As plain-as-the nose-on-your-face obvious. Nonetheless, writing this out is helping me heal from today.
News is a double-edged sword as a career. There are its shining moments, where you are able to shed light on criminal activity and corruption or highlight the beauty of a human soul. Then there are the destructive stories, where you challenge humanity, fairness and many other life questions that don’t always have pleasant answers.
Today was one of the latter.
If you haven’t heard already, two seniors at Shenendehowa High School were killed in a fatal car crash last night (Saturday). Their two significant others, also young students at local schools, were seriously injured. The man who police believe to be responsible is expected to face charges: two counts of vehicular manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. More of YNN’s coverage here.
In any crucial news story like this, I’m constantly prowling for information, discussing what other resources we can tap into, poring over Facebook profiles and Twitter to find tidbits about the subject of a story.
A news station’s goal is to be able to provide as many intimate details of a person so that ALL can understand who he/she is.
These efforts aren’t automatic and mechanical, though. At least, they weren’t today. Personally, they were punctuated by moments of heartache, seconds of quick prayer, a hard swallow to stop tears from forming in my eyes.
As jaded as I have become – and will continue to be – I can’t forget pain. Who is really able to?
It’s a battle to be able to put emotions aside for a few minutes to dig into the facts of a story, and then return to the emotional numbness for just a few snatches of time before you get back to your work. It is our duty to get the facts out there.
All this… is part of my job.
… quite the challenge, the journalism profession.
Also, all this was further perpetuated by MORE BAD NEWS. That’s to come in the next post.
It’s been quite the year.
In the many moments of contemplation, reflection and assessment, a small thought came to mind that I thought I’d share. It followed the discovery of this bumper sticker:
Now I’m going to pull a switcheroo :)
I say: “Struggle is inevitable. Change is an option.“
Undeniably, change is a part of life. I think that’s what the creator of the original slogan had in mind. There’s no way to predict the valleys or mountains that suddenly appear on the horizon or even right on your doorstep. As humans, most of us bristle at the unexpectedness we have to wade our way through. Change is not easy. So we struggle.
Remember, I said, ‘we.’ I struggle with mental, emotional, physical battles on a day-to-day basis. And I have no doubt that there will be more struggles with every flip of the calendar.
Amid all that, there is a choice. Many, in fact. Those decisions range from “Will I continue to struggle?” to “What can I avoid to make this easier?” The most important question though:
“What am I to learn from this?”
We can choose to change. We can choose to not make the same mistake again that leads to such suffering. We can choose to turn the other cheek. We can choose to fight harder. We can choose to not allow others to struggle like us. In doing so, we can make the choice to change for the better.
A lot of options. They’re yours to select. I’m still working through my choice now.
You know who they are. You may even be one. They’re the person sitting at the table next to you, blinding you with their flash (if they’re fairly new at this) or exclamining, “Don’t take a bite yet! I need a picture!”
I have adamantly refused to be a phood photographer (food fotographer?) despite the many restaurants I’ve patronized. For me, the memory of a meal is powerful enough that I don’t need to hold onto the image. Nor do I ever go back and look at pictures of plates. Food porn? Nope, not aroused.
This week, I broke my self-promise.
In two days, I had two of the best meals I’ve had in the Capital Region. Each made up of multiple courses. Each with carefully chosen wine pairings (or beer, if your tummy wanted hops). Each wowing me with the rich flavors and the delicate notes.
(Here’s where some of you might get a little too excited, in my humble opinion):
Yes. I took photos. Gahh!
The first meal was a collaboration between Creo and All Over Albany. We heard from local farms in my inaugural farm-to-table dinner. I could go on and on about the food, but just check out the menu here.
Then I attended my first ever dinner party at a new friend’s new home. The Culinary Institute of America graduate took my breath away with her elegance, thoughtfulness and creativity in this event. Truly an event.
I couldn’t help but be unfaithful to myself during these meals. Somehow - before the first course was even served - my camera was in one hand, my iPhone in the other.
But I wasn’t snapping shots because I had never eaten food like this before.
The plates were unique. The bites, blissful. The gastronomic value, sky-high. However, here’s why I adored these two meals so dearly.
It’s the people who made these plates worth saving. The love and passion in each dish, the careful planning of all the courses, the fascinating conversation over the cuisine: these are the snapshots of the night that I don’t want to lose.
Now it’s time to put away my camera.
At least, until the next dinner party.
It’s been quite the week of new adventures and experiences. I:
1. ran in my first 5K, Color Me Rad
2. participated in my first trivia night (GO TEAM! … We didn’t win)
3. golfed my first 9 holes since having some sense of knowing what I was doing
4. branched into more epicurean efforts
All worthwhile times to be had. I learned, I trained, I cherished, I ate.
However, I did the majority of these activities without companions. Let me clarify: I obviously played golf with a partner, ran with a team and guessed at random questions with my co-workers, but beforehand, I prepared solo.
Feeling bad for me? That’s okay. There were times where I threw a pity party for myself too (yes, alone again). There were other inaugural experiences that weren’t so pleasant (having my car battery die on me, driving almost 2 hours to a balloon launch where the balloons didn’t launch, etc.).
However, this is also a part of my Week of Firsts. I partook in a number of moments I didn’t expect to partake in, and I was able to accomplish them on my own. I’ve often relied on others to give me the encouragement and inspiration to venture into the unknown. But all this week, I foraged ahead by my own footsteps.
So here’s to more adventures! Join me, and we can plan together.
Or… find me on the way. I’m going to keep moving.
*You need to go to these places:
… that pack a big punch.
I’m going to stray away from my random newsgathering-related rambles and tackle one of the most written-about subjects of all time.
To be honest, I’m not planning on questioning its significance or how one recovers from heartbreak or any of its deeper profound moments. I just wanted to write an entry as an ode to those three words that can make or break our lives.
Today I learned that a friend heard those words from a man she cares about this past weekend, and for the first time, no less! I yelped in excitement, I giggled, and even ran over to give her a hug. She was, in her words, “on Cloud 9.”
I’ve gone through my share of pain due to love, but when I saw someone who stepped into that place of being deeply and openly cherished for the first time, my heart leapt in mutual joy.
To know love, to live love, and to give it is one of the greatest parts of our lives on earth. Call me a sap, but even if I’m not the one all aflutter, I can’t help but celebrate its vibrancy in those around me. Love is an action. Love is a decision. Love is purposeful. The list goes on.
To wrap up:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” – John 15:9
and to those of you who know me well:
I love you.
Last week I had the assignment of covering two debates prior to Primary Day, which is Thursday, September 13.
However, debates are not very easy to cover. Here’s why:
1. If the candidates do their job, there is a LOT of information
2. As a reporter, I have to pick and choose which issues to address
3. There isn’t much time to do so
4. It still has to be a cohesive story a viewer will want to watch
Unfortunately, the first night I didn’t make my 11 p.m. deadline. I was crushed. It still ran as the top story in our hyperlocal news block because of other political coverage that ran late, but that doesn’t excuse my failing.
So what happened? After racking my brain, I believe it truly came down to wanting to put together the best piece for the audience (Here it is). If you weren’t at the debate, well, by hook or by crook, NOW you’ve got what you need to know on the screen in front of you. In making this my goal, I got caught up in wording and sequencing and most importantly, fairness… and the production just went too long. I didn’t finish on time.
Angry at myself, I went on to the next night’s debate, determined to have my package in before 11.
Though proud I had met my goal, I realized there was a sacrifice made. As I was writing, editing, regurgitating, I kept telling myself, “It’s not going to be perfect, but just get it done.”
Therein lies something deeper.
As a journalist, meeting your deadline can often become the highest priority. The news needs to be released IMMEDIATELY.
But in the process, are we losing quality?
I know that I did. Before I went to bed that night, I admitted to myself there was a better way I could’ve wrapped up that debate recap. The ending I used? Not horrible. Was it fluid? Could’ve been smoother.
It makes you wonder just how much good storytelling we lose because of the need to be first/prompt/within a certain time frame. Because we definitely do.
In the end, it comes down to whether you value the immediacy or the quality of the information. News… is news.
A colleage of mine posted this on Facebook: “If you worked at a station that makes… sure to do a story about Snooki having her baby, would you be ashamed?”
A solid, solid question, as I ended up being the “lucky” anchor who read the story.
I think more than my opinion, I’m interested in yours. However, I’ll share mine to get the ball rolling.
As much as we hate to think that personal developments in the lives of reality TV stars deserve airtime, they will get it. What has Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi done to be on news outlets? Nothing on the level of politicians, heroes, leaders, entrepreneurs, learners, teachers and others. Yet TV stations (and other media outlets) cover her life because she’s wormed her way into ours. Her obsessions, quirks, outspoken words and sometimes complete ignorance have horrified and captivated us to the point where any action of hers demands our attention.
As a journalist, I hate that her child’s birth gets coverage. As a subscriber to bad TV? I yelped when I heard she went into labor.
Managers who decide not to address Snooki’s son in their newscasts should be lauded and admired. However, I guarantee the majority will choose to make mention because they will receive the ratings and the attention from the general public. Not to mention… they were probably just as fascinated.
Do we blame the media? It certainly is an easy out. But before we shake our heads at the networks, let’s take a look at ourselves.
I’m the first one to say I need to change my interests before I judge that of others.
By the end of this month, YNN.com will become enhanced for Time Warner Cable subscribers. To clarify: those of you who are not TWC customers will only have access to the print version of our news stories… and not video.
This means those of you who follow me and live miles and miles away from an area serviced by TWC will no longer be able to see video clips :(
As a result, here’s a final barrage of clips that you can check out now, while they’re still accessible.*
As always, thanks for watching! For your enjoyment, the following photo.
*I am working hard to try to get an online customer plan so that people who are unable to have TWC can still access YNN.com . It’s apparently in the works, but may not be for awhile. Double frowning-face :( :(
It’s been just three days since a dozen people were killed and 58 people injured in the movie theater massacre in Aurora, CO. That same day, NY State Police charged two teenagers in Montgomery County with the murder of two other teenagers.
You know what else? It was also Opening Day for the 144th season at the Saratoga Race Course.
I didn’t work that Friday, but I was constantly refreshing Twitter, checking my YNN emails, and I was proud of how my station covered these events. As much as the track is an important part of our region, our news team knew that such pain needed to take precedence. At the same time, they chose not to ignore the lighter stories.
I call it the ‘about-face.’ As an anchor, you want to be solemn when speaking of the details of grievous moments. But two minutes later, you could be seeing a story about a county fair.
(Note: To be fair, there usually is a wider gap between such content. Props to good producers)
While this back-and-forth is difficult to adapt to, we can’t deny that all sorts of news can happen at any and all times. Yes, there are points where you deliberately back off the fluff. But refusal to accept the more palatable stories isn’t realistic either, seeing that a balance of both sides is reflected in human life.
In one week, one of my closest friends will be getting married. I’ll be standing inches away from her as she commits to be faithful to the man she loves, and guaranteed, my heart will be overflowing with joy.
Yet a few days ago, this same dear friend’s grandmother was hospitalized. In her words: “Barring miracles, she won’t last too long.” Tears were streaming. How does one deal with a deeply rooted grief when a long-anticipated celebration is on the horizon? Do you have to choose?
I wish I had the answer to help her cope. I don’t. What I do know is that you can’t cold-shoulder one or the other. The two impacting moments are part of her, and my life. As they unfold, we will do our best to address them.
We’ll do an about-face. But we’ll turn around, over and over, as often as we have to. At some point, the spins will blur.
Here are at least a dozen more clips of some of my work out in the field or stories I’ve anchored at the desk.
*did something a bit different with the ‘do! See below.
You’d be surprised how often this thought comes to mind:
“I can’t believe I’m here.”
I never dreamed that I would live in a place where all-you-can-eat blue crabs were at my disposal. I would’ve laughed at you if you told me I’d ride 100 miles through Delmarva’s countryside… partially because I would have no idea where Delmarva was. I couldn’t even imagine that I’d find myself ringside at a boxing match or in a press box at a horse racing track. Yet all these things have come into fruition because of this career o’ mine.
Not that I’ve found my feet in dozens of locations. Really, it’s only been two regions. Nonetheless, I’ve been able to set my sights on cities, waters, events and lifestyles I didn’t know existed.
So cheers to exploring! Cheers to new friends who will show me familiar places. Cheers to old friends who are willing to venture out to wherever I am and discover alongside me. More importantly, cheers to all the food I’ve been able to consume. My tummy is quite the willing traveler.
some photos from just this week…
This week, I hit four years as an on-air journalist. I’ve been at YNN for one year, then three at WMDT-47 in Salisbury. It’s not a very long career to look back on. Even so, I still marvel at the fact that yes, I am living my dream. Each step of the way here, I haven’t been alone.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been able to spend time with some of the people dearest to my heart. I’ve known these cherished friends for years, some, decades. Being with them, sharing my worries and fears, exulting in accomplishments – I have been, am being, and will always be fulfilled.
So this post is for you.
Your love and faith have gotten me to where I am today. These cards that I have on my desk at work are just two tiny reminders of the people who push me to keep believing and set the standard of what “success” really is.
Thank you, and thank God.
infinite in Three,
P.S. There is another image on my desk…
(kudos to CMacofTroy who brought this meme into my life)
Here’s another post where you can check out some of my recent anchoring and reporting clips, since YouTube only has outdated stuff. Be patient… there are TONS of ads before each clip.
Thanks to ALL of you who have always supported me and believed in me.
I don’t deserve a greeting back, considering I have been gone for so long. However, I will begin to the conversation up again soon, so feel free to chime in!
This is likely going to seem egoistic, but I wanted to have a place to post my anchoring and reporting clips at YNN for those who aren’t in our coverage area. I’ve often been told by friends that they’ve watched me on YouTube… but that content is dated, so here’s the latest!
So please, enjoy :) And honestly, any feedback would be welcome, always looking to improve.
This post was inspired by someone – who doesn’t know me very well - calling me “vain.”
I immediately denied it.
And then I realized… maybe this acquaintance knows me better than I think.
I used to be a young woman who relished the fact that she didn’t feel pressure to wear make-up. So she did not. She may have put it on for fun, or if she was going to some fancy restaurant, or attempting to look her age, since otherwise, she looked 5 years younger and without a bachelor’s degree.
Ahh, a carefree life.
Fast-forward to today. At least five days a week, I apply layers of paint to my face, eyes and lips. I blow dry my hair (my hair is already straight) and then take a straightening iron to it (my hair is already straight). All to either trot up to the anchor desk or head out to report on a story.
You may be thinking, ‘Well, that’s what professional women do. Big deal. I apply lip gloss when I head to work as well.” A legitimate point.
However, two weeks ago I volunteered to help clean up a local museum that suffered much damage from Tropical Storm Irene. At 8 a.m., as I stumbled to throw on something that could get muddied and dirtied… a ray of clarity shone into my sleep-deprived mind.
I needed make-up.
Being a public figure has its perks. At this point in my life, I get recognized once in a blue moon (though I do believe wearing YNN gear around town has increased those odds). But what lowers my chances is the fact that I don’t wear make-up out in public. I’ve been told I look completely different on air when I’m seen in person. And I’m not so sure that’s a compliment when people say that to my clean, make-up-less face.
So the carefree nature I used to have when it came to my appearance… is a faint memory of the past. I feel a need to maintain the person I am inside that box in your living room… wherever I may meet you otherwise.
To some extent, I am resigned to being mirror-obsessed, image-conscious person. As you can guess, this does wonders for my self-esteem. But even while I may not be the fairest person of them all, I can at least say I’ve learned how to put that hated make-up on properly. And those days where I can hide the make-up bag from myself? Completely blissful.
Since you are the public, you certainly should have an opinion. Feel free to answer!
I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have gone live on YNN more over the past three weeks… than I will in the next few months, or even in the next year. Such is the nature of hyperlocal cable TV… we just don’t go live all the time. It’s not practical, considering that we must have content 24 hours a day.
But these past 21 days have been a blur of live love. The love of going live.
You may be confused. Didn’t this aspiring journalist anchor live shows at her previous gig? What’s so addictive about going live now?
Here’s what I’ve done in the past three weeks:
1. Anchor Travers Day coverage: one live segment at the top of each hour, which includes spontaneous talkbacks between the anchor in studio, the sports director and reporter live at the track, and an interview with whichever guest happened to show up on time. Approx. 9 minutes total, all about a topic I am not familiar with, but thoroughly researched. However, don’t ask me what pari-mutuel means.
2. Wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Irene: six hours straight of anchoring from the desk with colleague Steve Ference, as we discussed what residents needed to know, spoke with reporters who were live out in the storm and/or flooding, interviewed local officials about the conditions of their jurisdictions and broke in with any immediate updates we received via email, our producers, and of course, Twitter.
3. The New York State Fair: anchored two live shows, each on average, 15 minutes long. I was bummed that it was raining, but hey, at least there was a stuffed dog that accompanied me on our set.
4. Breaking news cut-ins for Southern Tier flooding: twice an hour, breaking in for 3-5 minutes at a time, with the latest facts on the flooding that residents would want to know. Many of the segments I researched and produced on my own.
All of this unscripted. No teleprompter. And therein lies the thrill.
Speaking without a script is frighteningly exhilarating. When you don’t know what your next complete thought is going to be. When you aren’t sure that you’ll have enough content to fill the time. When you are trying to control the “um”s, the “ah”s and your trembling hands. Frightening and exhilarating.
People have asked, “How do you come up with enough to say to fill that time?” I do research in advance, jot down thoughts on post-its, get inspired by another person’s remarks… and repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Hey, it’s cable TV, viewers expect repetition :) Sometimes you don’t even know what is about to come out of your mouth. You just hope it’s something that sounds semi-intellectual. Thank goodness I’m not in the habit of swearing! It’s that risk, knowing the pressure is all on you… that gets my heart racing and my adrenaline pumping. To be honest, I’m even surprised by my positive response to this. I’ve never been categorized as the adventurous risk-taker; in fact, I tend to be methodical and careful in life. Maybe this is one way for me to exhibit my inner daredevil.
Then again, I WAS part of my high school’s improvisation team (What?! Yes, I’m as taken aback as you are).
Looking back on these past weeks, there were moments I failed miserably in clearly communicating information and news. There were also times when I succeeded in delivering the content with confidence and sympathy. With so many opportunities, I’ve had to stagger a few steps back, but then move forward with strong strides.
Now to have more paths to keep walking on.
(Not that I’m asking for more natural disaster stories. 2011 has seen enough.).
To begin, I apologize. I’ve had this post saved for weeks, and I just haven’t fleshed it out. It consists of 3 thoughts in their very initial stages:
- chuck – come to fruition
- bradley — wanting to see trial until the end.
Cryptic, right? Doesn’t that leave you wanting more?
Now to explain.
There are certain types of stories that reporters love to tell. It varies, depending on who you are. I’m not going to tell you what my favorite type is because I’m just like that. I don’t really have favorites. Moving on.
Despite the draw towards crime or fluff, if a reporter starts a story that’s fairly significant… he/she wants to see it to the end. I believe in what I call story loyalty (\ˈstȯr-ē ˈlȯi(-ə)l-tē\) – a bond and faithfulness to an event, person or newsworthy item and the commitment to see it through to its fruition and/or conclusion.
Now back to the 3 fragmented thoughts.
Chuck Campbell has become a friend of mine after I first began covering his battle against COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) a few years ago. I wasn’t the first and only person at WMDT to cover his story, but as the years went on, more of my colleagues left, and I was one of 3 original reporters who had met with Chuck to hear his determination to buy a new pair of lungs. By 2011, he and his friends and supporters had raised the $1M needed and a few months in, he received a double lung transplant. As soon as I heard – I felt my heart leap. THIS was why we had been following his endeavor for years.
Throughout the weeks of recovery that followed, I kept in touch with Chuck through phone and Facebook. When he finally, finally came back home, I was off the clock… in fact, he was getting back to his house in Milford, Del., at a time I was normally getting ready for bed. But even though I wasn’t the one who would ultimately turn the story for our 6 p.m. newscast, I drove the hour there and back… and was the only non-family and non-media welcomer for Chuck. It was a privilege.
Essentially, there are times where you belong to a story. You don’t own it. It owns you. In fact, after the work day is done, you’re still lingering on how you could’ve written it better, what else you want to know and if you can follow up tomorrow. If you’re lucky, there’s a way to keep the story going. If you’re unlucky, it keeps going for years. But it won’t let you rest until you’ve done it justice.
The last fragmented thought was of the Dr. Earl Bradley case. I was one of the first reporters to hear of the crimes the Lewes pediatrician committed. I was the first to read the counts and charges that were brought against him. I attended the announcement of the 100+ victims he had abused. It all made me sick.
Bradley was arrested in December 2009. He was brought before a judge in June 2011. By then, I was gone. Even in the months leading up to it, my heart ached to cover his trial… but I knew I wouldn’t because I was (1) the morning anchor and (2) planning on leaving. It sounds almost disturbing, even to me, to write this, but I yearned to be a part of our coverage. Yes, yearned.
In the end, I let it go, and I will keep cutting the ties. News is a business, after all. You can’t take it home with you all the time.
But therein I realized what story loyalty was all about.
Being surrounded by legal minds, it’s always interesting to take a step back and analyze the relationship between attorneys and the media. From our perspective, the defense attorneys are often hard to get ahold of, distant and sometimes, just crazy for defending who they do. Prosecutors are the “good guys,” because they’ll often speak to us and give us the allegations and updates we want.
But having spoken to one particular aspiring J.D., I’ve realized just how much the news SHAPES justice. This is why:
1. We love to have a “bad guy.”
Even in the first graf, I used the term “good guy.” Sheesh. Now, the media are supposed to be unbiased, and in political stories, we certainly aim to be. But when it comes to crime, I’ve found the more shocking, the better. The more heinous the crime, the higher it goes in the newscast. So on and so forth. Thus, when we receive a press release from police, the “bad guy” radar comes on, and I know that I for one, will look to emphasize the most jaw-dropping point in the case when I’m telling the story.
Then we balance it by using the word “allegedly.” We don’t want to convict the person, obviously. DUH. Which leads to point #2.
2. “Allegedly” does not equate innocence
Technically, it does. If you write that someone allegedly smashed a storefront window, then it’s fair. But how many of us have learned to tune out that word? You aren’t listening to the word “alleged.” You’re listening to “smashed.” As a result, in your mind, you’ve already come to believe this person did it. Done. Over.
3. People watch the news. That means jurors may watch the news.
While those who are called to jury duty aren’t allowed to be keep up with the press’ coverage of the case… oftentimes, they do. I believe it’s because it’s fascinating to see the media all over something that you are involved in. It almost makes you feel famous. At least, I think that’s how I would feel. I haven’t been on jury duty yet… but that may have just jinxed me.
Anyway, an example. Another aspiring J.D. I know is working on a case, and as soon as I found out the attorney-to-be was going to be assisting the attorney-that-is DURING THE ACTUAL TRIAL, I went online and researched the case.
These are a few of my thoughts. I recently read an article that referred to an “alleged rape victim” as “the accuser.” It certainly takes the whole meaning away from “victim,” doesn’t it? I think I’m 100% guilty of sensationalizing news stories to get someone’s attention, even if that may imply a suspect is guilty.
Then again, is this part of the job?
In which case, it’s not just that news shapes justice. It could hinder it. Hm.
It’s a strange concept. Let me explain:
News should remain the same, despite the medium. After all, there are certain characteristics that can make a story fit for print, or good for air, or worth sharing on Facebook/Twitter (because hey, admit it. Isn’t that how you get at least 50% of your news nowadays?).
The problem is, sometimes certain news isn’t fit for your medium. This statement is even hard for me to accept, and I’m in the biz! I don’t like to believe that because of the way I deliver the news, a story can or should not be told. Nonetheless, it has happened and is happening to me now.
I won’t release the details of the story yet because I still haven’t gotten all the details. At the same time, I can’t release it even if I did, because no one will talk to me on camera. I’ve gotten almost all the information I need through phone conversations and emails… but when it comes to sitting down with a microphone, everyone has straight-out refused. The majority having done so in a rude manner.
TV relies on attention. Which then means lots of action, emotional soundbites and compelling video. My voice narrating a “he said, she said”? Not bound for success. As a result, not bound for air as well. Some news directors will agree to such a piece; but even I think I would agree with those who would turn it down.
For now, I’m still fighting to try to get people to talk to me with a camera present. Isn’t it suspect that they refuse to talk to me too? Ah. That’s another story.
Enough from me. Let’s make this interactive :D
My co-worker Ryan asked me if I liked to anchor our noon broadcast. I told him I loved it. Seemingly contradictory, I know, because I requested to be taken off the 12 PM show so that I could go out and report.
The thing I love about anchoring the noon is that it’s wholly yours. So when I’m at the desk, this 27-minute show is my baby. I wrote it, I produced it, I know where each and every thing is, how long it’s supposed to be, and just about how much time I should have left by the time I hit the E block.
So I was on a high today. Got to pursue a few phone interviews, called to get results in from local elections, picked the soundbites I wanted, even ended up having a live phoner in the A block (that fell into place about 15 minutes out from the show, so I’m sure my director wanted to kill me). I got ready with make-up in five minutes and I was back on the desk, sending notes to my 6 PM producer and director.
And below are just a few snippets of how it all fell into place.
… Yes, I realize this is self-promotion, but when you are proud of your product, it’s not as shameful to show small clips, when it won’t even give a glimpse of the entire pictures. I’m not forcing you to watch the entire show. ^_^